Umpires Mark Benson,second left, talks to Harbhajan
Singh 
during the second test [AFP]

India's cricket team will appeal a three-match suspension against spin bowler Harbhajan Singh and "suspend" operations until the International Cricket Council hears the case.

India officials said in a statement by the Board of Control for Cricket in India that they would challenge "the unfair decision" to suspend Singh over racist remarks made to Australian allrounder Andrew Symonds during the second test and that it will "suspend its operation until the appeal is disposed of."

The BCCI said it has convened an emergency meeting in India for Tuesday.

It was not immediately clear whether the "suspension of operations" could result in the team not playing the third test beginning January 16 in Perth.

"The board will fight the blatantly false and unfair slur on an Indian player,'' said the statement, released by officials at the team's Sydney hotel.

The Indian team was scheduled to travel to Canberra by bus on Monday for a two-day tour match later this week, but earlier in the day decided not to leave Sydney.

It is scheduled to play an ACT XI on Thursday and Friday.

Cricket Australia said that there has been "no advice of the Indian tour to Australia being canceled.''

Chief executive officer James Sutherland said Cricket Australia and the Indian cricket board are continuing to discuss "issues" arising from the Sydney test, "however, those discussions have not included any advice that the tour will not continue."

India could risk a $2 million fine from the ICC if it refuses to continue playing the tour.

Under ICC rules, member countries are obliged to fulfill their tour contracts except when the security of the players is at risk or the touring team's government orders that the tour should not proceed.

India could also be liable to reimburse Cricket Australia for any losses incurred.

A matter of honour

"Unfair allegation of racism against our Indian player is wholly unacceptable,'' said BCCI president Sharad Pawar, who is also a senior government minister.

"The game of cricket is paramount but so too is the honor of India's cricket team and every Indian,'' Pawar said.

"The BCCI is committed to protect the country's fair name. India's national commitment is against racism. Our national struggle is based on values which negate racism.''

Relations between the teams reached a crisis point after the second test when India captain Anil Kumble accused the Australiansof a lack of sprtsmanship.

Sutherland suggested Monday that Ponting and Kumble should try to help mend fences.

"It's only appropriate in that circumstance for Ricky Ponting and Anil Kumble to get together to talk about what differences of opinion there may be in that regard,'' said Sutherland.

The Indian team also expressed its lack of confidence in umpires Mark Benson and Steve Bucknor, and requested that Bucknor be removed from the third test in Perth.

The Indians appeared to have had at least five umpiring decisions go against them in Sydney, the most blatant an appeal for caught behind against Symonds when he was on 30 in the first innings.

An ICC spokesman was quoted as saying late Monday that it had not received a request from India for any umpiring changes, and that there would be no revision of umpiring assignments for the rest of the tour.

Bucknor is scheduled to umpire in Perth.

Source: Agencies